Friday, May 28, 2010

Maximizing Disney's FastPass

Disney’s FastPass system is easily one of my favorite features in the theme parks. I remember that when it debuted in 1999, I was amazed that Disney would let their guests get away with “not standing in line!” Even though I was quite young (a teenager), I immediately recognized that this was a big deal in terms of the way we toured the parks.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the FastPass (FP) system, the simplest breakdown is this: In an effort to alleviate long lines at certain popular attractions, Disney created the FP, which allows guests to come to an attraction at a designated time and enter with very little – sometimes no – wait. Here are some tips to help you use FP:
1. MAKE A PLAN: You are probably not going to be able to utilize a FP on all of the attractions for which it is offered (especially in the Magic Kingdom!). Go through your park map before you get there and determine which attractions are “do or die.” This will mean either using the Stand-By Line for some attractions or coming back a second day to do some attractions. Making this decision beforehand will reduce disappointment and frustration in your group.
2. GET TO THE PARKS EARLY: There is a set amount of FP distributed for each attraction in a day. For some headliners, if you do not get a FP within the first few hours that the park is open, you will be relegated to the Stand-By Line (I’m talking to YOU Toy Story Midway Mania!!!!)
3. IF POSSIBLE, HAVE A RUNNER: If your group has a reliable teenager or otherwise energetic person, sent THAT person to get a FP for everyone. It is more efficient for one person to navigate crowds than a whole group, and it allows the others in the party to take a breather (i.e. restroom break, quick shopping, grab a snack, etc…) as they work their way to the next attraction or meeting spot. I have been the designated runner since I was a teenager, and this definitely helps in my family.
4. BE AWARE OF THE TIMES!: This tip is two-fold. First of all, look at the Stand-By Line. If the wait is 25 minutes or less, you should just get in line and save your FP for another attraction. Secondly, be aware of the return time—especially if you are park hopping later or have Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs). If the return time is 6:30pm and you have ADRs at a resort for 7pm, you are NOT going to make it!

***Spread the magic***
If you have a FP for later, but realize you’ll be unable to use it, for whatever reason, give them away to unsuspecting strangers! This way the FP is not wasted AND you’ve spread a bit of pixie dust to another family.

I really wanted to share specific directions, an itinerary even, for making the most out of your FP—which ones to get, when, and in what order—but it really all boils down to what YOUR family’s favorite attractions are. That being said, I’ll tell you with a few thoughts on individual attractions and some of my personal strategies.
In the Magic Kingdom
-- FP for Space Mountain run out early. If you want to ride, get this FP first.
--If your child wants to ride The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh or Peter Pan’s Flight, you have only 3 options that will keep your sanity: 1.Be there at park opening. 2. Get a FP. 3. Ride during a parade/fireworks. Otherwise you will be left in a LOOOOONNNNGGGG line for a short (although adorable) ride.
--If I have to choose between a FP for Splash Mountain or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I’m going to choose BTMR every time. The queue for Splash Mountain is much more interesting, and it is much cooler temperature while you wait in line. Also, although the logs seat few people, they load very quickly, making for a constantly moving line (for me, a moving line makes me feel like I’m not waiting long).
--I never waste a FP on Mickey’s Philharmagic*. The theater seats several hundred people at a time, so even when a line looks long you generally only have to wait for the next show. If worse comes to worse, you can literally walk into the attraction directly after the fireworks.
*It should be noted that I avoid the Magic Kingdom like the plague on high capacity days, so I might rethink the FP on those days.
In Epcot
--If you want a FP for Soarin’, get it early. However, I must interject that because of the slow-loading nature of this attraction, even with a FP I waited nearly 30 minutes to ride. In my opinion, if the wait is 45 minutes or less I would rather go through the Stand-By Line because it has some very cool interactive games along the way to keep guests entertained while they wait.
--Test Track and Mission: Space are about even when it come to running out of FP during the day. Base your decision on what your group wants to ride and check the Wait Times Boards in Future World to check out Stand-By times.
In Hollywood Studios
--Toy Story Midway Mania: get there early, or don’t get a FP. My husband and I could never get to the Studios early enough for a FP on this attraction, thusly dooming us to a 1+ hour wait in the Stand-By Line (totally worth it though; this attraction is awesome!).
--Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster vs. Tower of Terror: I always get a FP for Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster and go through the Stand-By for Tower of Terror. Similar to the BTMR vs. Splash, this decision boils down to the fact that the Tower or Terror loads much more quickly than the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.
In Animal Kingdom
--Arrive early! Get a FP for Expedition Everest, then go straight to the Kilimanjaro Safari. Being early has two benefits: you’ll beat the crowds and you’ll see more animals on the safari, as they tend to be more alert in the cooler mornings.
--On hot days FP for Kali River Rapids will run out quickly.

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